The Holiday Edition
by Nancy Ford
Continuing with our theme of classic movies that are worthy of a second (and third and fourth and fifth) look, this month we have chosen five films that, for a variety of reasons ranging from feel-good to fantasy, we believe best exemplify the spirit of the holidays. Crack open the egg nog, grab the remote, sit back, relax, and make your season brighter with these year-end family jewels.
Oh, how we love a fairy tale, especially when that fairy tale stars Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. Making the sweet even sweeter, ES was filmed while the young stars were real-life lovers. Edward, a Pinnochio-esque character who has been assembled by a kindly but undeniably mad scientist (Vincent Price), is a real boy in every way except for the lethal weapons protruding from the ends of his arms. When the creator dies before he can replace Edward’s sheers with digits, Edward is adopted by the Mary Kay Cosmetics-type, Peg (Diane Wiest) and her family, and the wistful misfit eventually learns that sometimes being human isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. One of Tim Burton’s earliest enchantments, this snowy fantasy, though somewhat predictable, is more importantly a thoughtfully satirical study in diversity, right down to the screeching holier-than-thou neighbor.
Gayest moment (Peg to Edward):
“The light concealing cream goes on first. Then you blend, and blend, and blend. Blending is the secret.”
Tim Burton directs. 1990.
THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS
Lesbians of a certain age attest to the appeal of a young Hayley Mills, whether she was cavorting on a rocky Greek seacoast in Moonspinners or doing double-duty twins in The Parent Trap. Here, Mills trades her squeaky-clean Disney image for that of a naughty Catholic schoolgirl, complete with uniform, in this innocent yet naughtily adorable comedy. As Mary Clancey, Mills is a neglected rich girl whose acting out at the private boarding school, St. Francis Academy, gets her into hot holy water with her impressionable sidekick, Rachel Devery (June Harding).
Mother Superior’s (Rosalind Russell) scene with “modern dance” instructor Mrs. Phipps, played by Gypsy Rose Lee. Four years earlier, Russell had famously played Mama Rose in Gypsy, the hit musical based on the genre-defining stripper’s life.
Ida Lupino (!) directs. 1966.
A VERY BRADY CHRISTMAS
Sure, we appreciate those old reliables It’s a Wonderful Life and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated one, and we don’t mean Jim Carrey) for their tradition and whimsy. But it’s hard to find another film that so succinctly encompasses the unreasonable expectations, skewed sense of priority, and the therapeutic powers of homemade pie that only the holidays can demand than this made-for-TV comedy. From Bobby’s heartbreaking decision to drop out of college to pursue a career in NASCAR to Jan’s failing marriage to Marcia’s unemployed husband, the grown-up Bradys provide one of the whitest Christmases you’re likely to ever experience.
Gayest moment (tie):
1) Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) rescuing her husband, Mike (Robert Reed), from a collapsed building using nothing more than the sheer power of song.
2) Realizing how much a grown-up Greg Brady (Barry Williams), with his full moustache, looks like Borat.
Peter Baldwin directs. 1988.
True, the Corleones were a much, much different sort of family than the Bradys, but their devotion to one another runs just as deep. Problem is, watching the standard-bearer of cinematic excellence sets off a powerful urge to dip some crusty bread into the steaming pot of meat sauce. Or whip up some Chicken Parmesan. Or dive into a cannoli. Giada Di Laurentiis’s Everyday Italian pales in comparison to the literal banquet that is The Godfather. A brief Christmas scene perfectly captures the wintry feel of a holiday-season evening as young lovers Kay and Michael stroll the streets of New York City and learn via corner newsstand (the iPhone of the day) that patriarch Don Corleone has been shot.
So many—Sonny’s Elvis-like macho overcompensation while needing to be surrounded by his boys, 20 gangsters “going to the mattresses” while one of them tinkles out a tune on the piano, studio executive’s Jack Woltz’s (John Marley) penchant for satin sheets and pajamas…pick one.
Francis Ford Coppola directs. 1972.
THE GODFATHER PART II
It’s hard to have a Happy New Year after finding out on New Year’s Eve that your brother mortally betrayed you. With its brilliant back-and-forth generational editing, The Godfather Part II inarguably remains the greatest film sequel of all time, even though its creator incredulously lamented recently that this follow-up should never have been produced. Much of the tension in both Godfathers takes place around the family dinner table, just like in Part 1 and in real life. Be thankful this holiday season that your family doesn’t end its squabbles with a ride in a rowboat.
No, it’s not when Michael and Fredo Corleone share a lengthy kiss on the dance floor. It’s when Michael’s thug goes into aging gangster Hyman Roth’s suite to assassinate him, lightly tip-toeing into his bedroom to strains of a Jaws-like musical score.
Francis Ford Coppola directs. 1974.